Day two: Dhoni brings up his fifty
Wicketkeeper Mahendra Dhoni and batsman VVS Laxman led the Indian recovery as they marched on with a brilliant partnership in the post-tea session. The duo came together at the fall of Rahul Dravid’s wicket at 93 and since then, have added a 101 run partnership (at a run-rate of 4.17) to put India within touching distance of overhauling the Pakistani first innings score of 231.
Dhoni brought up his seventh test fifty and contributed the larger chunk in the partnership i.e. 55 runs, while Laxman displayed a lot of patience and class as he approached his 30th fifty, batting on 41. The Pakistani captain tried all his options, without much luck. Both Dhoni and Laxman were involved in a strong counter-attack, after the Pakistani bowlers rattled the middle-order before tea. Their approach was simple, put the loose balls away, while treat the good ones with respect. The partnership ensured that India forged their way into the match in a very strong manner and at the first drinks break of the session, India were 194 for the loss of five wickets.
Pakistan won the fifth session of the Kotla Test, as their bowlers triggered a Indian middle-order collapse. The Indian batsmen, who left the field at 46 for 1, had no answers to a brilliant mid-session spell from Shoaib Akhtar and Sohail Tanvir. India, went to tea at 139 for five, after watchfully seeing through a nasty post-collapse period with VVS Laxman and Mahendra Dhoni looking in good touch with the bat.
India’s collapse recieved some respite after the wristy VVS Laxman and Mahendra Singh Dhoni were involved in a busy partnership, where they blended some brilliant boundary-bound strokes with some quick running between the wickets. The mentality of the batsman was aggressive, not relenting down to the intense pressure mounted by the Pakistanis earlier. Laxman especially stood out, punching some superb straight drives and on-drives off Sohail Tanvir. Dhoni, meanwhile was looking steady, trying to rotate the strike whenever possible. Laxman was unbeaten on 28, while Dhoni was not out on 17.
Earlier in the session, Wasim Jaffer was the first one to go after lunch, as he was trapped plumb leg-before by Shoaib Akhtar for 32. Akhtar bowled it full and fast, angling it into Jaffer. Jaffer moved his front pad across his stumps but, was too late as he tried to play it across the line. The ball thudded into his pad in front of middle and would have clearly gone on to crash into middle and leg stump.
Sachin followed him after two balls run out for just one. Dravid played one from Akhtar off his hips to short leg and the duo ran an easy single. But Tendulkar saw the possibility of a second and turned for it, and slipped. Dravid sent him back, but it was too late as by the time he tried get back in, Mohammad Yousuf fired one into Akmal, who broke the stumps.
Saurav Ganguly’s brief stay in the crease came to an end, before Sohail Tanvir bowled him for 9. Tanvir, who struggled initially with his length, bowled one fuller which angled into the off-stump. Ganguly pushed forward, creating a considerable gap between pad and pad and the ball took an inside edge, to crash into middle stump. India were in trouble, at 89 for four.
Pakistan bowled themselves to ascendancy later in the session when Tanvir struck again to dismiss Rahul Dravid for 38. Tanvir, followed his first wicket, with a beauty of a delivery pitching on leg and middle. Dravid was drawn on the front foot and he tried to play a flick across the line. The ball angled into him and crashed into off stump. India slump from 71 for one to 93 for five, a dramatic middle order collapse, losing the “big three” for cheap.
Dravid and Jaffer stroked themselves into a good 50-run partnership. Dravid, especially took heavy toll of anything loose and short from the Pakistani bowlers. The duo added 56 runs at a brisk rate of 3.26. While Jaffer flicked anything bowled in the middle and leg line, Dravid played some exquisite cover drives and flicks to mid-wicket. Jaffer’s score of 32, was filled with 5 boundaries, while Dravid’s innings was composed of 6 fours.
India’s innings got off to a shaky start, when Shoaib Akhtar struck the first blow to remove Dinesh Karthik, caught behind for 9. Akhtar pitched the ball on a good length outside off stump and got it to seam away from Karthik. The batsman did not move his feet and fended it from the crease, thereby getting a thick outside edge, easily pouched by Kamran Akmal. India were 15/1 after Karthik walked back to the pavilion.
Rahul Dravid walked in to bat after Karthik’s dismissal and got off to a speedy start. He played some splendid strokes as he treated debutant Sohail Tanvir with disdain, smashing three boundaries off one Tanvir over. At the other end, opener Wasim Jaffer looked solid and at ease against the Pakistani pacemen. Dravid ended the session at an unbeaten score of 18, while Jaffer was not out for 19.
The Pakistani bowlers, barring Akhtar looked ragged. They did not hit the right lengths and were looking predictable beyond a point. Debutant Sohail Tanvir looked totally out of place as most of his deliveries were going away from the right-hander, giving them enough of a sighter to leave the ball. Shoaib Akhtar, however, stood apart. He bowled with a lively pace and hurried the batsmen consistently. Mohammad Sami struggled in the one over he bowled, while Danish Kaneria finished off the session for Pakistan.
Pakistan’s strategy in the session of play also looked flawed, as they placed four slips and a gully, especially with a modest score of 231 to defend. This gave the Indian batsmen enough of gaps to place the ball neatly, and what followed was a flurry of boundaries behind the wicket, on either side.
Earlier in the day, Misbah ul-Haq scored a tenacious 82 before his innings came to an end thanks to a moment of amateurism by the batsman. Misbah, trying to take evasive action against a throw from Dinesh Karthik was caught off guard, with the batsmen suspended in mid-air as the ball crashed into the stumps. Soon after the run-out, Kumble bowled the perfect delivery to a number 11 and removed Danish Kaneria. It was a fast and full one which just breezed past Kaneria’s defences.
Misbah’s partner, Mohammad Sami was left stranded on 28 of 101 balls. He played perfect foil in a partnership that tried to revive Pakistani hopes in the game and also succeeded in frustrating the Indian bowlers.